Felixstowe strike starts Sunday 21st August
The Port of Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, will be hit by an eight-day strike from Sunday after mediation talks failed, but despite the predictions of “huge disruptions” throughout the UK supply chain, we are hopeful that the situation will not be as dire as the trade press are suggesting.
We know that one of the biggest carriers has advanced or delayed its schedules to maximise available labour before and straight after the strike period and will not be diverting any cargo to other UK or North European ports.
Taking a different path, Cosco has announced that it will omit its two services into Felixstowe next week and said that containers on the quay during the strike would continue to accrue detention and demurrage charges after their free period, in a move that other carriers are likely to follow.
London Gateway and Southampton are relatively congestion-free, and while diverted volumes would have to be carefully managed, it is unfortunate that carriers and Felixstowe failed to act earlier, on such a solution, as alternative gateways are clearly not now viable, which is why Cosco is omitting services to the UK and not redirecting them.
It is likely we will see many more vessels omitting Felixstowe and the fallout could take weeks to resolve, which will extend transit times for affected cargo.
We are trying to find out what contingency plans other carriers will put in place as, in addition to omissions, it is likely that UK cargo could be offloaded earlier at hubs like Antwerp or Rotterdam. Though with many North European ports already dealing with their own industrial disputes, as well as severe congestion, lines may prefer to use ports further upstream, to be collected by the following week’s vessel.
We continue to clear our containers from the port before Sunday, delivering and moving containers to off-dock holding areas, but with the port only releasing vehicle booking slots (VBS) each day, subject to the level of workforce present, this task will be ore challenging.
Dockworkers at the Port of Liverpool have also voted to strike over wage negotiations and while no dates have yet been announced, it will not be before the 3rd week in September.
During the last round of negotiations, Felixstowe added a £500 cash payment to its proposal to the union members, in addition to its proposed seven percent wage increase for all employees. But with the union rejecting the offer and refusing to put it forward to a ballot, the likelihood of additional action is significant.
We are monitoring the situation closely and will report on developments as they happen, so that you can make informed decisions and avoid possible issues, before they become problems.